Friday, 28 March 2008

Gracious invitation

As I walk each morning I sort out my thoughts for the day. And I usually have a song or two racing through my mind.

So, this morning, I was thinking ---- that so much Christian preaching seems to be “in your face” proclamation, on the lines of “here is something I know, which you don’t know, and you need to know it”.

There is precious little humility in Christian preaching. All too often it is a matter of “the expert expounding to the neophyte” - notwithstanding that the expert with a clerical collar may be a fairly recent convert, who addresses sisters and brothers who have a life time of Christian experience.

I scold myself as a preacher who loves to preach.

My morning thoughts about preaching were tempered as I began to sing a hymn written by my former colleague, the Revd. J. Mary Luti, Minister at First Church, Congregational in Cambridge, MA. Mary is a wise woman, a great preacher, and a fine Pastor.

Her hymn has none of the “expert” about it. Instead, it is a hymn of gracious invitation. Oh that there were more preaching rooted in gracious invitation.

Here is the hymn. I wish that I could sing it to you.

If there were a fountain (J. Mary Luti)

If there were a fountain of blue water bright from a cleft in a rock underground;
if streams from the fountain poured sapphire delight on the waterless earth all around;
if pools of refreshment could slake all your thirst, and a hope hold you up when you sink;
if there were no fear of the deep and the worst, would you come, would you bathe, would you drink?

If there were a table in beauty arrayed in a house full of song old and new;
if ev’ry good pleasure were lavishly laid for delight, for contentment, for you;
if places were set for the least and the small, and the feasting were ample and fine;
and, oh, if the feasting cost nothing at all would you come, would you sit, would you dine?

If there were a God who is welcoming fire and impatiently eager to save;
if there were a God who awakens desire and bestows all the love you can crave;
if God were a gathering God, and a balm for the homeless who aimlessly roam;
if God were a house, in the center a calm, would you come, would you finally come home?

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